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ASWSU wants to improve the student experience ...by taking their seats away

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Hit me, Evergreen:

The success of the men's basketball team has been consistent over the past several seasons, and the hype of the women's team is hotter than ever. As the men continue to rack up wins and the women look to stun opponents with their highly regarded recruiting class, WSU made a move to decrease student seating in Beasley Coliseum by 1,500 seats. ASWSU President Brandon Scheller said average attendance at basketball games last year was around 3,500 students, nearly 1,800 less than the 5,300 seats slotted for students. "We really weren�t filling up the stadium, which surprised the heck out of me," Scheller said.

So, as we discussed on this very blog earlier, the student section has been cut from 5,300 students to 3,800. What this article says is that the average student attendance last year was "around 3,500".

Let me explain what that "average" means, because I fear that the leadership at ASWSU lacks the math skills to understand. It means that during some games (UCLA, USC, Oregon) crowds were well above 3,500. While at others (NC A&T, Idaho, Nowheresville St) attendance was well below that. Lower attendance is also a given when students are on breaks, like Thanksgiving or winter. That is reflected in the "average", which doesn't paint a clear picture of how many student seats are really needed.

Now, here's why cutting the student section by 1,500 seats is a terrible idea. When you have those big games, you are now only allowing 300 seats above the average for students. If the crowds are anything like they've been the past few yeas for UCLA, etc. that means an even larger number of people will be shut out of the Coliseum despite waiting an even longer amount of time. Yes, the diehards are safe, but you have a large percentage of the casual fan base who won't even bother showing up. Why? Because why wait an hour or more when you aren't guaranteed seats, or are forced to sit in the second deck of Beasley? And with the baseline seating gone, a lot more students will be forced to watch the game with a nosebleed.

During the summer, the Athletic Department and ASWSU met and came to the conclusion that this problem needed to be resolved. Therefore, effective this season, the number of seats in the student section has dropped from 5,300 to 3,800. The seats, which are at the end of Beasley Coliseum closest to the visitors' bench, were given to the Athletic Department to sell to the general public.

The key words here are "during the summer". Want to get anything even remotely controversial pushed through ASWSU? Do it over the summer. Remember when the Bookie made the controversial decision to sell its management rights to Barnes and Noble? Over the summer. After all, how can students complain when they aren't around?

Also, this confirms my suspicion about the cut in student seats. ASWSU just let athletics have them, with few or no questions asked. That's 1,500 seats gone without so much as an e-mail to the ZZU CRU saying, "hey, we're thinking about doing this". Representative democracy at its finest.

"The last thing we wanted to do was turn students away, but we also don�t want any empty seats at Beasley," Scheller said.

Yes, that makes sense. But what seats weren't being taken up by students? Nosebleed seats. The lower bowl was consistently full.

Why is that important? Because if my understanding of WSU "law" is correct, athletics cannot take student seats without the approval of ASWSU. So why then, didn't ASWSU tell athletics we'll give them 500-1,000 seats in the second deck? I don't think even the most passionate students would've argued against that.

When I was a senator for the Graduate and Professional Student Association, the first thing I asked athletic director Jim Sterk in regards to Martin Stadium renovation was whether or not a renovated stadium would cause a change or reduction in student football seats. His reply was that it wouldn't, not without ASWSU approval, and later added that he was proud of the size of our student sections. I assume the same goes for basketball, and this article implicitly confirms that.

The Athletic Department made a push for the move to be made over the summer. Department officials believe it was the right move to be made for the program and for WSU students, said Casey Fox, director of marketing for WSU Athletics.

Obviously. Remember, as much as we try to believe in the innocence of college sports, athletics is a business, and a rather sharp one at that. They know that their revenue from sports passes is the same, more or less, regardless of how many student seats there are available. If they can add extra revenue on top of that - great for them. Although I don't believe for one second this argument about it being the "right move" for students, unless they are implying that this gives us the best shot of keeping Tony around long-term.

"This was a collaboration between ASWSU and the Athletic Department to help out the program with ticket sales, but to make sure to be fair to the students as well," Fox said.

The news of the move has evoked mixed emotions from students.

"(It's) completely absurd, taking away the students presence, especially near the visitors bench. It's like giving the opposing team a free slap on the heinie," freshman business major Bill Mace said.

Fair to the students? You can take seats, but don't try to twist around the reasoning. You did it for money, and to a lesser extent to "make sure all the seats are filled". By the way, even with the new seating sections, I doubt you'll see a sellout for Farleigh DIckinson or Mississippi Valley State.

Also, I don't not know who freshman business major Bill Mace is. But I like him.

The men's team faces Mississippi Valley State on Saturday night at home. The game will provide a preview to whether these changes will play a significant role in changing the attendance this season. For now, less student seating will be available, but the move was made to fill the coliseum stands, and help bring more passion to Friel Court, Scheller said.

"With the direction our basketball team is going, we want to keep the energy there. We still have the highest allocated percentage of student section seats in the Pac-10," Scheller said

More passion?

Who do you think is more passionate: a group of people aged 2-91 who stand up only during huge momentum swings and times out, or students who stand the whole game while they yell and swear and hold up signs? You can make a case for why you moved the students away from the baseline, but passion isn't one of them.

Why isn't the Tony card played in this whole article? To me, that's the only good reasoning for chopping students seats: we need Tony, therefore we need the money to keep Tony. This is a way to do that. Would that really be so hard to say?

Yes, we do have the highest allocated percentage of student section seats in the conference. However, here's a stat for you:

King County, population: 1.83 million
Whitman County, population: 39,838

Ok, so I cherry picked my stats, but it still makes the point. Which county with a major university is going to rely more on students to fill seats? We have the largest football and basketball student sections in terms of size and percentage of overall seats. There's a reason for that, though, which is we need those sections.

Also, Brandon Scheller was once a sportswriter for the Evergreen. Shouldn't he, more than anyone else on ASWSU, understand why it was a bad idea to cut so many seats? All this is really going to do for the students is antagonize them and make them a little more wary of their government.

When it comes down to it, the real reason this whole thing bothers me is the number. Those are 1,500 seats the students cannot get back. They are athletics' seats now, and you'll have to pry them out of their cold, dead hands (or wait for the program to sink to Paul Graham-type levels again). The reasonable and prudent thing for ASWSU to have done would be to cut 500-1,000 seats, and keep students on the baseline (or at the very least the bleachers on the baseline). Then, everyone walks away a little happier. More seats get filled by paying customers, and your homecourt advantage isn't hurt.

Furthermore, the sections behind the basket and section 36 (due to the students standing) are billed as "view obstructed" seats. Are those really going to generate tons of revenue? When I called to get tickets for the Baylor game, which I'm taking my Dad to, the attendant seemed to hint that I would want nothing to do with those sections. So why not fill them with students? Remember, it's the upper bowl that suffers when students haven't shown up, not the lower one.

It's not that the student section was chopped - it's where, and how much of it was cut. If ASWSU had done their homework, they would have noticed that. They didn't, and their constituents now have to pay the price.

Another reason to look forward to graduation.